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INTRODUCTION: Treatment of advanced neck disease (N2c/N3) in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is contentious. The aim of this study was to review the survival outcome following surgical excision of neck disease and the complications of this surgery. PATIENTS AND METHODS: A retrospective review of the case notes of 39 patients treated at the Oxford Radcliffe Infirmary Head and Neck Unit with squamous cell carcinoma and advanced neck metastases confirmed as either pN2c or pN3 on histological examination was performed. Patients were treated with surgery and, in some cases, with adjunctive postoperative radiotherapy at the centre between August 1996 and November 2004. The study sought to establish the demographics, UICC staging/pathology, method of treatment, complications, recurrence and survival. Kaplan-Meier curves were used for statistical analysis of survival. Comparisons were then made between the cohort and historical control groups. RESULTS: All patients were UICC stage IV disease. The 2- and 5-year overall survival in patients with resectable disease was 63% and 52%, respectively. DISCUSSION: Patients with advanced neck disease have traditionally been thought to have terrible prognosis and, therefore, treatment is controversial. In treating advanced head and neck cancer, there has been a recent trend away from surgery towards chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. CONCLUSIONS: Comparing this study group to historical controls that include chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, the outcomes appear favourable. The use of a combination of radiotherapy and surgery is advocated; it is suggested that advanced neck disease can have an acceptable prognosis and morbidity and that local disease control may be achieved.

Original publication




Journal article


Ann R Coll Surg Engl

Publication Date





703 - 708


Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Carcinoma, Squamous Cell, Combined Modality Therapy, Female, Head and Neck Neoplasms, Humans, Length of Stay, Male, Middle Aged, Neck Dissection, Postoperative Care, Retrospective Studies, Survival Analysis, Treatment Outcome